The real reason Pyongyang is publicly protesting contact from Tokyo

Posted on : 2024-04-01 16:44 KST Modified on : 2024-04-01 16:44 KST
Multiple statements have been put out by Kim Yo-jong and now Choe Son-hui
Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui of North Korea. (KCNA/Yonhap)
Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui of North Korea. (KCNA/Yonhap)

North Korea’s foreign minister reiterated that the issue of abductions of Japanese citizens is a nonstarter for negotiations with Japan, saying that North Korea “has nothing to solve” with regard to the sticking point for Tokyo and “has neither the responsibility nor the will to make any effort for it.”

In a press statement released via the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Friday, Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui of North Korea, stated, “I cannot understand why [the Japanese prime minister] persistently adheres to the issue that cannot be settled and has nothing to be solved while trying hard to deny and shun the reality.”
Choe made reference to recent comments by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, saying that he “would make sustained efforts under the established policy for the settlement of various pending issues between the DPRK and Japan.”

But she went on to say that dialogue between Pyongyang and Tokyo is “not a matter of concern” for North Korea, and the North “will not allow” any attempt by Japan to contact it. 

Choe’s statement appears to be in response to remarks by Kishida made after Kim Yo-jong issued a press statement on Tuesday claiming that North Korea “will pay no attention to and reject any contact and negotiations with the Japanese side.”
Kishida stated that he would “refrain from commenting” on each of Kim’s remarks and that Japan will “continue to make efforts to resolve the various issues with North Korea in accordance with our existing policy,” making Choe’s announcement a reaffirmation of Kim’s original statement.
However, if North Korea is refusing all contact and negotiation with Japan, why are Kim Yo-jong, a senior official in the Workers’ Party of Korea who is also known as Kim Jong-un’s spokesperson for foreign affairs, and Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui personally putting out statements addressing Japan in such quick succession?
“We need to keep in mind not only the arguments that are visible to us, but also the movements below the surface,” said a former senior government official. “It seems that North Korea is playing mind games with Japan in order to gain the upper hand in the contact process.”
Kim Yo-jong previously said in a statement released on March 25 that Kishida had, “through another channel, conveyed his intention to personally meet” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “as soon as possible.”
“Another channel” means a different means from the ones used for previous North Korea-Japan behind-the-scenes negotiations, and “as soon as possible” means that Japan sought an early summit, hoping to resolve current diplomatic issues after the heads of state meet.
North Korea seems unwilling to accept Japan’s terms off the bat, given that the outcome of a possible summit is unclear. Therefore, it is playing a diplomatic mind game, urging Japan to hand over gifts to their own liking before they accept any of Japan’s terms.
“The continuous statements released by North Korea’s senior diplomats may be proof, paradoxically, that North Korea is indeed interested in a North Korea-Japan summit,” analyzed another former senior South Korean government official.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

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